System Hack: Genesys Mecha Design Goals

When the Genesys RPG from Fantasy Flight Games was released I wondered exactly what I could do with it. I’m familiar with the Narrative Dice System after a number of Star Wars campaigns and one-shots, but that’s the trick with universal systems: when you can do anything with it, the single biggest question becomes what to do in the first place. Almost since the beginning, though, an idea needled at me, and I’ve finally decided to do something about it: a Mecha Anime hack for the system. Before we set up and get in our giant robots, however, I needed to figure out exactly what I was going to be doing to make this happen.

How Genesys Mecha Work

The basic vehicle rules as presented in the Genesys core book include combat walkers as one of the possibilities, but I think they fall a little short of being able to handle a humanoid mech a la Gundam, Macross, Full Metal Panic, etc. The basics like Silhouette, Armor, and Speed work fine, and I don’t think I’ll have to create any new Actions or Maneuvers. I do think I’ll need to make a few changes and adjustments, however, to the stats for vehicles. There are two broad ways this might happen. First, mecha might need some Characteristics of their own.

Now, unless I decide to throw in some AI or something (although now that I think of it that could be an interesting Archetype/Species . . .), a mecha wouldn’t have Cunning, Intellect, Willpower, or Presence. For this method I think I’d definitely be giving each one the Brawn characteristic, however, to denote how strong the machine is when it comes to mixing it up with melee against an enemy machine. The dice pool would combine the mech’s Brawn with the pilot’s skill.

Agility is a bit stickier. Handling usually covers how agile a vehicle is, but I’m not sure it can convey how the machine’s specifications can limit how well the pilot can use it. It would be the same as Brawn – mecha’s Characteristic, character’s skill – but the trick would be to make sure that everyone doesn’t just get the highest Agility mecha as soon as they have the cash. I also wouldn’t want to make the character’s Agility a dump stat if the mecha has a stat itself; it’d be more than a little off for a game where many if not all of the characters will be pilots. The idea, occurs, then, for necessitating that a character’s Agility be high enough to take advantage of the increased abilities of high-speed machines. My initial thought is to give a player setback dice for every rank of personal Agility they have below their mecha’s.

Of course that’s an awful lot of work, and it might end up being super clunky, so an alternate idea would be for mecha types to instead ‘cap’ how much of a character’s Agility and Brawn can be used. This isn’t as realistic as giving mecha Characteristics of their own, but it does seem simpler, wouldn’t necessitate fiddling around with Handling at all, and does have some basis in the genre: the characters with the beefiest machines tend to be pretty big-muscled themselves, and speedsters tend to be on the spry side. The con here would be that characters with high Characteristics would have to get themselves a machine that lets them use their Characteristics to the fullest, or else they’re wasting XP.

One other change to the vehicle rules is that I’m going to reintroduce the arcs from the Star Wars lines. Pretty much every mecha will only have forward and rear arcs to worry about, but that’ll be enough for hand-held shields and the like to be relevant, and make Gain the Advantage more useful for the fast machines. If ships and carriers get involved, then having forward, rear, port, and starboard arcs will make the attack runs against them much more dynamic.

Building the Mecha

So once I’ve got the rules in place for how a Genesys mecha would work I then need to design the actual vehicles. This is probably where a lot of the hack’s content is going to come from, but I need a starting point, something to form a baseline for what a Genesys Mecha looks like and a testbed for the basic rules and gear.

To start I think I’ll take a page out of Edge of the Empire’s Special Modifications supplement. Specifically the page containing the Koensayr AD-1S Modular Multi-Role Starfighter.

For those who don’t have the book, the AD-1S was designed to be a favorite project of the game’s Technicians, with a relatively simple basic stat line but a bunch of hard points and several easy-to-switch-out attachment packages that would change up its stats and abilities. I plan for the first Genesys Mecha, the grunt of the hack if you will, to follow the same design philosophy. Relatively straightforward, with a bunch of different options you can mix and match for variety (and probably the contents of the next article). Once this original mecha is put through its paces, then I can start putting together the advanced prototypes, high-performance machines, and so on.

Other Rules and Considerations

Existing skills will take care of most of a mecha game’s needs, although I think I’ll need a new skill to use for melee combat at the giant robot level.

There are Talents that can be taken from the Star Wars lines and added to the list of available purchases; the real trick there will be to figure out what Tier of Talents they belong to. Time will tell if any new ones need to be made up.

Some new Archetypes will have to be created, mostly to represent different styles of piloting, and some Careers will have to be put together for characters who aren’t just about the fighting.

I might want to create a few other options for the use of Advantage, Triumph, Threat, and Despair. I’m definitely going to want to expand the Critical Hits for Vehicles as presented in Genesys; aside from bringing over a few interesting options from the Star Wars table, some options that are usually found in the personal Critical Hits table such as limb loss would have a place here.

Gear! Especially with the modular first mecha, there’s going to be a fair amount of weapons, modifications, and attachments so that pilots can customize their machines to their heart’s content. Some stuff might be unique down the line, tied to advanced machines, but there’s quite the armory that can be put together for everyone else.

As mentioned with the Archetypes/Careers, I’m going to want to make sure there’s room for characters who are more than combat pilots. Aside from doing so using the Archetypes/Careers in the first place there’ll probably be room in the mecha design and gear design spaces to create specialized machines to help some of those specialized characters.

Setting? I don’t have one yet, and it’s not necessary to make Genesys Mecha . . . but it could be a cool project. For now I’ll probably stick to a setting-neutral mindset, and if along the way I want to create some lore for the mecha to fit into I will. We’ll see.

So that’s it for now! I need to settle on the basic rules, create the modular prototype chassis to build off, and tweak a few other Genesys rules along the way. Anything else can use those parts as stepping stones. I’m glad to introduce System Hack to CHG to bring our readers more content; hopefully Genesys Mecha won’t be the last SH series of its kind. In the meantime I think I’m going to have a lot of fun with this one. You can expect a new Genesys Mecha article every month. Until next time, keep your mecha’s reactor hot and be ready to launch!

Genesys is the property of Fantasy Flight Games. Any other products are property of their respective creators/owners.

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